Connecting state and local government leaders
STATE AND LOCAL ROUNDUP | Atlanta unveils new bike lane plan … California will allow college athletes to make money off their image … New York City debuts retirement plan for private sector workers.
Vermont Gov. Phil Scott announced his support for the impeachment inquiry into President Trump, making him the first Republican governor to do so. In a news conference, Scott did not say that he supported impeachment, but said that he supports the effort led by House Democrats to delve into the evidence laid out by the whistleblower. “Most realize impeachment is a very serious issue and should not be taken lightly or abused. Congress has a solemn responsibility to every American to fulfill its role in our government system of checks and balances. It is my hope they will be objective and let their work take them wherever the facts lead, and they will be transparent with the American people every step of the way,” he said. Scott, a moderate Republican, went further than Gov. Charlie Baker, a fellow moderate Republican from nearby Massachusetts, who last week called the situation “deeply disturbing” but did not use the word impeachment. “I think the proper role and responsibility for Congress at this point is to investigate it and get to the bottom of it,” Baker said. Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz, a Democrat, said that many governors may reserve from commenting on the impeachment inquiry while they run for reelection. “It may not be politically good to do because I think at this point I, like many Minnesotans, am so sick and tired of the dysfunction in D.C.,” he said. Andy Beshear, a Democrat in a close race with incumbent Republican Gov. Matt Bevin in Kentucky, said he wouldn’t comment on the impeachment proceedings either. “Kentucky voters are smart enough to know that a governor has nothing to do with whether an impeachment proceeding moves forward or not,” he said. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican, believes that as a governor, he can make an impact on the impeachment proceedings, and is leading a fundraising effort for Trump during the inquiry. “We The People will end this impeachment inquiry and stand with him again in 2020—and our great state of Florida will play the leading role in delivering that victory,” he said. Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards, of Louisiana, is running for re-election against two Republican challengers and has been the Democratic leader most critical of his own party. “This is at least a distraction that’s going to keep the federal government from actually governing, and you know it’s hard enough for them to do that anyway,” Edwards said. [Associated Press; New York Times; PBS; FOX 13]
BIKE LANES | Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms announced a plan to triple the amount of protected bike lanes in the city by the end of 2021. The plan will be funded with a $5 million investment from the city, and will result in eight new miles of bike lanes, in addition to improvements to an additional 12 miles of road. “We have heard from residents of Atlanta loud and clear—people want safer streets, and they want to see real changes before another tragedy occurs,” Bottoms said, referencing the four fatal scooter accidents that have happened in the city since May. Paul Steely White, the director of safety for the scooter company Bird, said that cities with well-established bike lanes tend to see lower rates of scooter accidents. “The infrastructure solutions are the ones that time and again have proven to be the most effective. By prioritizing safe infrastructure design and traffic enforcement, Atlanta has the most power to reduce injury and fatality rates for all road users, including e-scooter riders,” he said. [Atlanta Journal-Constitution; Curbed Atlanta]
COLLEGE ATHLETES | A new bill signed into law on Monday by California Gov. Gavin Newsom will prohibit universities in the state from revoking a college athlete’s eligibility or scholarship if they choose to make money off their likeness from endorsements or branding deals. The law, which will go into effect in 2023, will also allow athletes to hire agents who can seek out business deals on their behalf. The law will affect the 58 NCAA-member schools in California, many of which publicly opposed the change. Stanford Athletic Director Bernard Muir sent a letter to the California Assembly telling them that the bill would create an unfair national playing ground. “We believe that for any reform to be fair and meaningful to all student-athletes it needs to occur at the national level and be adopted by the NCAA,” he wrote. The NCAA also opposed the bill, warning that it would skew recruitment efforts in favor of California schools, and could make teams from California schools ineligible for national championships. “Right now, nearly half a million student-athletes in all 50 states compete under the same rules. This bill would remove that essential element of fairness and equal treatment that forms the bedrock of college sports,” the group said. But athletes have largely expressed support for the measure, noting that college sports bring in incredibly high revenues for schools, none of which is shared with athletes. “This law is a GAME CHANGER. College athletes can responsibly get paid for what they do and the billions they create,” tweeted Lebron James, a vocal supporter of the law. [Stanford Daily; California Aggie; Los Angeles Times; Route Fifty]
RETIREMENT PLAN | New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio revealed a new retirement plan for city residents who work for private sector companies, which he hopes will pass through the city council by the end of the year. The new plan would cost companies nothing, but they would be required to participate and offer the service to workers if they do not offer a retirement plan of their own. Through the plan, 3% of a worker’s pay would be diverted from their paycheck into a retirement account managed by the city. The mayor’s plan responds to a retirement crisis in the city, where more than one-third of New Yorkers between 50 and 64 years old have less than $10,000 saved for retirement; older white New Yorkers have nearly double the savings of black, Asian, and Latino New Yorkers. Of the roughly 3.5 million private sector workers in the city, over half don’t have a retirement plan option at work. "We have people all over this city who are living that fear, living that anxiety; they're retired and they don't know if they'll make it or they're working and they don't know if they'll ever be able to retire. This is not what we signed up for. This is not the American dream!” said the mayor when announcing his plan. Two states—California and Oregon—offer public retirement plans, and if it passes, New York would become the first city to offer one. [ABC 7; Crain’s New York Business]
NO SHUTDOWN | A government shutdown has been averted in Michigan, where Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and a Republican controlled legislature have been locked in negotiations for the past few weeks. Whitmer signed several budget bills to keep the government open, a day before the October 1 deadline. "With just a couple of days left before the start of the new fiscal year, the Legislature has now presented the governor with all the budgets. Therefore, planning and preparation for a potential state government shutdown can now stop," said a memo to state workers. Budget negotiations faltered a few weeks ago when the state had to allocate $2.5 billion to fix roads in need of repair; Whitmer had wanted to implement a 45 cent-per-gallon fuel tax, but the Republican legislature refused. Instead, Republicans passed a transportation budget that includes $400 million in funding for roads, which members of Whitmer’s administration said would defund other areas of government, potentially leading to layoffs. “[Republicans in the legislature] created harm in other areas and other important services to come up with money for roads that doesn’t come close to solving the problem,” said Kurt Weiss, a spokesman for the state’s budget office. House Speaker Lee Chatfield, a Republican, said that the $400 million will allow long-term road funding negotiations to continue. “The people of Michigan deserve a state government that reflects their priorities and makes responsible, long-term decisions. The state budget finalized today does all of that,” he said. [Detroit Free Press; Associated Press; Detroit News]
Emma Coleman is the assistant editor for Route Fifty.